Development of a nanostructured membrane-based passive sampler as a tool for the monitoring of viral pathogens through wastewater-based epidemiology
Jiménez Rodríguez, Mildred Gissel
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Infectious disease outbreaks are a global burden that is continuously increasing. Classic epidemiological approaches to identify infected individuals and prevent the spread of the diseases usually include individual clinical screenings, sentinel surveillance, and the analysis of surveys, hospital data, and mortality and morbidity rates. However, these methods have failed to detect early warnings of future outbreaks and are resource-dependent. Thus, wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been used as a novel community-wide monitoring tool capable of providing comprehensive real-time data on the public and environmental health status, which can ultimately contribute to a faster adoption of public health interventions. Efficient spatial and temporal sampling is critical for the success of WBE, however, current sampling methods mainly consist of grab samples, which can lead to the over- or underestimation of pathogen concentration. Passive samplers are a promising alternative to improve WBE since they can be used for prolonged periods to obtain more representative information of the real conditions in the area. Advances in nanotechnology have also helped to overcome the efficiency of recovery yields for membrane-based methods. WBE monitoring was employed at Tecnologico de Monterrey to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 risk throughout its community.Therefore, this research project aimed to develop a nanostructured polymeric membrane-based passive sampler to monitor SARS-CoV-2’s RNA through WBE. The scope of the study was to determine the membrane’s morphology, its stability, and RNA adsorption kinetics, which were evaluated to establish a WBE passive sampling protocol to detect and quantify the viral load in wastewater and study the trends in the circulation. Different formulations were explored to determine the influence of the selected membrane components in its morphology and RNA adsorption capacity. Three suitable candidates were selected to further pursue as potential stand-alone detection devices. RNA adsorption was achieved within 0.5 h and 1 h of magnetic stirring in previously spiked water samples with two of the selected samplers. However, the obtained values were very low and cannot be used to conclude that the passive samplers work as per their intended use. Nonetheless, they are an indication of potential opportunity areas within such formulations.